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Cigar Box Guitars

Updated on May 10, 2012

Cigar box guitar revival

The cigar box guitar has its roots in the Southern American Delta for more than 150 years. Money was hard to come by during and after the Civil War and Depression. The impoverished expressed their pain and sorrow in a culture called the Blues accompanied by a primitive musical instrument made out of cigar boxes. And so was born the cigar box guitar, primitive in its simplicity, but resonates with music from the soul that will pull at your heart's strings. Today, the cigar box guitar (CBG) is enjoying a revival amongst legions of hobbyists, amateur and professional musicians, songwriters, and the DIY culture. Some call it a revival, some call it a revolution, and others call it a nation.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

What is a Cigar Box Guitar?

History of the Cigar Box Guitar

Homemade Cigar Box Guitars

An addicting hobby

Not only do cigar box guitars date back to the mid-1900s, but they deliver the authentic primitive blues sound, the kind that you sit on the porch swing and sing your heart away. Whether these are one-string or 6-string instruments, these repurposed cigar boxes are a lot of fun to play.

The resurgence of the cigar box guitars (CBG) has hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers handcrafting the exotic wood boxes into fine musical instruments. As shown in this Fremont Flea Market in Northern California, the assortment of these one-of-a-kind cigar box guitars not only will turn heads but are likely to convince onlookers to join the CBG revolution. It is rumored that the craft of making cigar box guitars is addicting. After making one, another one may be on its way.

This is a documentary film of the world's largest concert of cigar box music which provides a glimpse into the meeting of hobbyists, amateur and professional musicians who share the same passion for the cigar box instrument. People from all walks of life take the stage and express themselves with songs they wrote themselves inspired by these treasured wooden cigar boxes. Most of the documentary was shot at the 3rd Annual Cigar Box Guitar Extravaganza in Huntsville, Alabama.

Enter the Cigar Box Guitar Website

Mighty Fine Cigar Box Guitars

From the Shane Speal Collection

Shane Speal is known as the King of the CIgar Box Guitar who has made it his life's crusade to spread the word and promote the popularity of CBGs.

Here is a gallery of handmade cigar box guitars which belong to Shane Speal Cigar Box Guitar Collection. Each one with its own history, sentimental value, and character.

The one-string cigar box guitars are very similar to the one-string fiddle used in Yiddish vaudeville.

What does a one-stringed cigar box guitar sound like?

This cigar box guitar was built by Kirk Withrow, a head and neck surgeon who became a prolific and passionate guitar builder and player.

"The cigar box changed everything, opening up a well of creativity-not only as a musician, but as a woodworker and artist-which he had never before experienced. Once Withrow made his first guitar, he found himself hungry to make a second, then a third; each creation, he discovered, was distinct. "The next one will have a different sound," he says, working on one. "I'll make a guitar, then I'll make one electric."Read more on Kirk Withrow

This is a 5-string cigar box banjo with a reclaimed oak for its neck. It was used by visual artist and musician, Timothy Renner for his album "Primitive Recordings." Listen to Timothy's Primitive Recordings

The Macanudo Portofino cigar box was stripped bare of all the paper and transformed into a baritone ukulele. The scenery was woodburned into the wooden case. The cigar box guitar was built from a Papas Boxes Kit with the neck, tuner and all other essential parts. kit

Photo Credit:shanespeal

Here is a simple walkabout cigar box dulcimer meant to be played guitar style than lap style.

How to build a cigar box mountain dulcimer

Shane Speal, the King of the Cigar Box Guitar (CBG) - What does a CBG sound like?

The best way to describe Shane Speal's music is to take blues and gospel and country and Hawaiian and ragtime and put it through a meat grinder that's missing some teeth."

-York Daily Record

Let's Boogie - The many sounds of the cigar box guitar

Cigar box guitar music is not limited to Blues, jugband, and rock music. Folk singer Marcy Marxer is a two-time Grammy Award winner who performs with Cathy FInk as a folk music duo. In this video, Marcy plays a boogie on her cigar box guitar. This one makes me want to get on the dance floor and shake a leg.

Must read book - A labor of love

This is a delightful and educational read about the origins of the humble cigar box guitar and how this cast-off material became a musical instrument for the impoverished to sing their blues away in the mid-1800s and evolved into an accepted stringed instrument played by hobbyists, amateur and professional musicians today. This is a treasure trove of historical snippets, magazine articles, illustrations and photographs of homemade stringed instruments from from throw-aways, including cigar box violins, ukeleles, banjos and mandolins and cigar box guitars.

How-to build a cigar box guitar books from Amazon

How to play a 3-string cigar box guitar - Get the DVD now from eBay

This is an awesome DVD which will shows you how to find the right notes, how to get the ZZZZ sound like the Texas Blues using the slide, as well as the "rollover" which is a Shane Speal trademark.

Delta Blues at its best - Does not get better than this

American Blues News

Travis Woodall: On creating a cigar box guitar for a rocker

Listen to these smoking hot DVDs

Be amazed at the sound of cigar box guitars. It will knock your sock off.

Smoking hot cigar box guitar DVDs at your fingertips - Buy one today

Tutorials on DVD to show you how to make your own smoking hot cigar box guitar. volume 1 &2. The greatest journey you will ever take when you discover the Delta Blues.

A Cigar Box Guitar Builder's Guide to stringing and tuning

This is a great instructional video that is easy to follow and understand. Open tuning reduces a standard guitar and banjo to 3 or 4 strings.

Did the cigar box guitar pull at your heart's strings?

What do you think of the cigar box guitar?

See results

Strum your way to my guestbook. - What do you think of this lens?

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    • PaigSr profile image


      5 years ago from State of Confusion

      OK so I did own one. My grandfather made one for the grand kids many years ago. It was not as elaborate as the ones shown here but it was for the kids a guitar.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      looks great, inspiring. instruments can be made of a lot of things. I didn't know the cigar box guitar yet, sounds great

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very cool instruments, and lens. Blessed!

    • Mix Mafra profile image

      Michelle Mafra 

      7 years ago from Corona CA

      So amazing! The sound of the guitar is incredible:)

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      7 years ago

      They are too cool. I haven't seen one in a long time.

    • rootadesigns lm profile image

      rootadesigns lm 

      7 years ago

      Very cool lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very informative .The whole idea of cigar box guitars seems so novel in itself .But the variety you have included here has made them more fascinating .Well done


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